Eugene and Charmaine Edge Talk About Internship Programs

Published 5:02 pm Monday, January 8, 2024

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Local business owners Charmaine and Eugene Edge gave interviews about the internship programs each had started in conjunction with their business. Meeting at Charmaine Edge’s clothing store, Code Black Atl., both gave interviews behind the counter so that Charmaine Edge could be ready to serve any incoming customers. Still wearing a reflective vest, Eugene Edge, president of the NAACP and owner of Ibri Builders, began the interview by talking about values his construction interns learned.

“Showing leadership qualities. Being able to perform the task without someone standing over your shoulder.”

Skills his interns learned ranged from simple tasks like properly using a tape measure, to wide ranging disciplines like work ethics and showing up on time. Interns were able to apply these skills while learning plumbing and cabinet installation.

Eugune Edge mentioned anyone from the age of 12 to 18 would be eligible to intern with either business. So far, two interns have completed an internship with Eugene Edge’s construction company, and they are eligible to reapply. Charmaine Edge’s clothing store intern was recently hired.

Eugene Edge talked about how the impetus for the construction internship was to teach African Americans hands on skills.

“We won’t exclude anybody, but it’s basically designed for the African American community, because they are deprived in some things, so we try to educate them.”

Eugene Edge talked about how they had tried internships in the past, but that the recent internship program had gained support from Black Voters Matter, placing it under the NAACP.

He responded to questions about difficulties the program faced, stating parental involvement was an issue.

“I don’t think they understand the gravity of hands-on skills because a lot of people aren’t tech savvy, and right now everything is going to more tech. The job market is going to more tech, and they are eliminating a lot of hands-on jobs and that’s one of the problems that we see taking place at places like Walmart with the cashiers, everything is self-checkout now.”

However, he foresees limits with this trend, stating that although many jobs may be eliminated, jobs like laying bricks, building houses, and erecting structures were beyond automation.

“You can only do that by hand, and machines won’t do that. Trying to get the parents to understand that, although your child may not go to college, he can get a trade and learn hands on skills and he will always be employable.”

Eugune Edge expressed a strong desire to foster construction skills in the African American community.

“For four hundred years, almost four hundred years, the African American community has been the ones with that trade, because of course we built this country, and so we have lost that skill, we have lost that trade, and now the Hispanic community is doing a lot of that trade and that’s the sad reality, and that’s one of the reasons that we started that program is to help our people get back into those experiences that we once had.”

When asked about the hardest skill his interns needed to master, he said that none were especially difficult for those who applied themselves.

Charmaine Edge talked about the skills her intern gained from working in a clothing store.

“Customer service, number one, appearance, attitude, being on time, merchandising. Once you got your customer service down pat, everything else will fall in place.”

The clothing store internship also taught how to do layaway, place orders, and even allowed the intern to take a field trip to Atlanta. Charmaine Edge talked about how the intern especially enjoyed attending the Cobb Show, where a wide variety of clothing wholesalers gathered, allowing merchants to exchange and acquire inventory.

“We taught them the process of buying and dealing with the wholesalers. That was a good experience for them.”

Eugene Edge mentioned one common aspect of the internship was that they opened a bank account for the interns, allowing them to learn how to manage funds.

When asked what he would say to other businesses that might be interested in setting up internships, he mentioned reaching out to the Ignite program at the local high school to see if they had any students who would be willing to participate, and if they could offer any support.